One of my personal goals for this year was to make my classroom as paperless as possible. I was extremely successful in cutting down the use of paper.
I did print out vocabulary lists for the students, but they used them as resources all year – even yesterday, the last day of class I saw them pull out a list handed out the first day of class. So I would say that was paper well spent.
The only other time I used paper was when I knew I would have a substitute. You really need to be calm and flexible when using technology – and I did not want to put that pressure or assume someone else had those characteristics. It was a strange feeling coming back after a few days to a huge stack of papers that needed to be grading. I don’t miss that overwhelming sense that I am behind on work – and a tall stack will cause that feeling. Luckily one of the rooms I traveled to had a class set of mini-laptops. It was nice to leave directions for the substitute to tell the students to check the class blog. Even when not at school, I was able to leave paperless lesson plans. Most of the subs said they liked that the lesson was self-paced for each of the students. This is extra helpful since I can not assume a sub is going to have the background knowledge necessary to teach Spanish. By having the students submit work to me – through blog comments, Moodle submissions, or GoogleDocs it ensures that they are working.
How was I able to cut out the paper? All quizzes were done on Moodle. I did not use traditional worksheets. Practice activities were done as a class on the interactive whiteboard or in small groups using sites like Quia, Study Stack, Quizlet, Just Crosswords, or Class Tools. By the end of the year students were even bringing in iPod Touches to class – both Study Stacks and Quizlet let you export data sets using Apps. It was awesome watching the level of motivation soar for students using iPods in class. Definitely something I am going to consider for the beginning of next year.
It would have been sooo much easier to be paperless if all the classes I taught in had a class set of netbooks, but I am thankful for what I do have (interactive whiteboard) … the gratitude does not stop me from coveting what others have.
I have become so skilled at thinking outside the ream that I am expanding my goal for next year. My classroom was virtually paperless (except for the specific instances listed above). It required some creative thinking and exploring the multitude of tools online. However, I think anyone could go almost paperless. My goal is to help my colleagues realize how much better paperless is … not just for the environment but for sanity and managerial reasons too. For example, when collected assignments to be graded, Moodle will show submission time, divide by class, alphabetize the students, provide space for feedback, and easily display the grade. Yes there is the same amount of work to grade, but keeping track and recording the grades are so much easier. As a traveling teacher, I don’t know how I did it the first two years. I no longer have to haul papers to hand out or papers to grade. No student can argue that they turned something in and it was misplaced, very stressful since that claim was always saved until the last day of the marking period.
I am so confident with my skills – I bet I could make any project or aspect of class paperless. I do not need a vast understanding of the topic area, just the goals/objectives/expectations of the project. With that, I can find a way to make it paperless. Almost every time, paperless will also be more efficient for labor (creation and/or grading) in the end, but not the first time through. There is a learning curve for both the students and the teachers. Initially there is set up time for online resources, but they can be re-used with no effort or minimum editing. Last year was my creation year, this year I breezed through loving life. I want others to enjoy teaching again.
I found inspiration and strength through numerous online tools, tweets, blog posts, etc. There is no way to keep track of all the new technology nor the time to test everything, so it is great to hear about potential resources of value from people with similar interests and needs.
I think the ultimate motivation is the students. They want to use technology. I love when teachers stop me in the hall and start out “my students were talking about Spanish class …” than they to ask how to utilize a Voicethread or how to create a quiz on Moodle. As students were cleaning out their lockers today, there were many who complained about the waste of paper. Some of them might equate paper with work, but others really want to use technology more. Many students are outside the ream thinkers. Once they learn a technology, they see how it could be applied in different subject areas, especially if they liked the technology. If teachers are willing to learn from each other and learn from the students, anything is possible, even a non-traditional, paperless classroom.